UPDATE 1-Soccer-Berisha brace gives Western United playoff spot in debut season

12 Aug 2020 / 18:35 H.

    (Writes through after evening match)

    SYDNEY, Aug 12 (Reuters) - Western United secured playoff football in their inaugural A-League season when they beat Perth Glory 2-0 with a double from Besart Berisha on Wednesday to assure themselves of at least sixth place in the final season standings.

    The goals from evergreen striker Berisha either side of halftime at Western Sydney Stadium put the Melbourne club level on points with Adelaide United, who concluded their campaign on Tuesday night, but with a superior goal difference.

    "Who would have thought that in the first year Western United would play in the finals?" said 35-year-old Berisha, who has won the Australian title four times with two clubs.

    "I'm so happy for the club, from day one we worked so hard, what a story..."

    Berisha, the leading goalscorer in A-League history, scored his first against the run of play in fortuitous circumstances when Perth goalkeeper Liam Reddy pushed a cross into his chest in the 27th minute.

    The Albanian sent Reddy the wrong way from the penalty spot for his second in the 52nd minute after Australia full back Ivan Franjic was adjudged to have tripped Connor Pain.

    United's achievement was all the more impressive as they, along with the other Melbourne clubs, had to relocate to Sydney for the league's resumption ahead of a lockdown of their home city after a second COVID-19 outbreak.

    With former Bologna and West Ham United midfielder Alessandro Diamanti on board as their marquee player for their debut season, United are involved in two of the remaining four matches in the regular season.

    A point from either their game against Premiers Plate winners Sydney FC on Saturday or second-placed Melbourne City next Wednesday would allow the club to leapfrog Perth into fifth place, barring a heavy defeat in the other match.

    New Zealand's Wellington Phoenix and Brisbane Roar complete the lineup for the playoffs, which start on Aug. 22 and conclude with the championship final eight days later. (Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Peter Rutherford and Ken Ferris)

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